Daylight Savings Time Ending

Vista now warns you when Daylight Savings time is going to end.

Vista’s little time clock/calender is much better than the one in XP. Not only does it make checking dates easier, it also warns of impending doom (err. Daylight Savings Time starting/ending).

So it’s that time of year when signing up for spring semester classes begin. Once in upper division once every two semesters a one year plan must be filled out and a meeting with an adviser must occur prior to singing up for classes. Today, I was assigned my advisement date and time, and I went to check what day of the week it would be–they only gave a date and something about it seemed wrong (turns out they sent the wrong time and date). Upon clicking on the taskbar clock, I was greeted by a message warning that Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday, November 2nd. This was a surprise as XP did not even warn when it would work its DST magic–Windows 98 would warn after it automatically changed the clock.

-John Havlik

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Quick Weekend

Spending abnormally long amounts of time on simple projects sucks. So there is this biology paper, and presentation we have to do for lab. Patenting of genetic information is the topic I picked, IP is fun isn’t it? After writing a much longer paper for freshmen writing on software patents I thought this should have been easy. It would be, if either I didn’t care about it or if it wasn’t 2 pages, single spaced. I guess they wanted to save a portion of a tree. The other thing making it difficult is that we must submit a digital copy so that if the TA suspects plagiarism he/she can submit it to turnitin.com. I don’t copy the works of others, and try my best to cite my sources properly.

However, I do have several problems with turnitin.com, their data retention practices, and their outright smug attitude. They claim to not keep full copies of the submitted content, but rather some fingerprint of it. That fingerprint would be something like a tiger tree hash used by peer-2-peer networks. These are a one way hashing technique, that should be unique (no two non-identical documents should have the same hash, identical parts should have the same hash). In p2p networks these hashes are used to perform multi-source downloading, turnitin uses it for matching potential plagiarism.

The problem is if a matching hash is found, if they keep true to their word that they do not keep original copies, or contact information, there is no way to compare the actual texts. Since no hashing scheme is perfect there is a chance for different writings having matching hashes. If there is a single bit error when performing or storing the hash, false positives have a much higher chance of occurring. If they do keep textual copies, they are in violation of the copyright of the writer. Since they are using this data for profit, they may also need to get permission to keep the derivative works (e.g., hashes of they generate).

As a side note, I found a microprocessor that is more backwards than the PIC in some ways. It is the Texas Instruments MSP430. Setting up serial communication for the PIC isn’t super straight forward, but the MSP430 is much worse.

Finally, I need to congratulate JD and his fiancée Samantha on their engagement.

-John Havlik

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What a Week

Ok, so for about a week we did not have internet at the house, thus one had to rely on the slow at times Internet on campus. The good news is everything is fixed up now. The 20th birthday seems to be an uneventful one, with little significance except one year older, and the end of the teenage years. A week ago the desktop was brought back home from work. The previously quiet machine roars compared to one’s laptop. And, no it’s not really faster then the laptop either. Transcoding a SouthPark episode, ~23min in length, to a screen resolution appropriate for my Zen took about 2.6 times longer on the desktop. So that makes a Pentium 4 @ 3.0Ghz (with HyperThreading) about 2.6 times slower than a x9000 Core 2 Duo @ 2.8Ghz. By no means was the test very scientific as they don’t have equal memory sizes, speeds, or operating systems. However, it is a rough depiction of the performance difference.

Oh, and Cysis still works on the desktop. Last Friday I presented it to some friends who thought it looked amazing. Then I let them know that what they saw was on more or less the minimum settings. The disappearing rocks problem leads to an awkward situation when you shoot at an enemy and they don’t even flinch. After unloading a few rounds you realize that there is supposed to be a rock there.

Depending on my whim, this blog may be down for a little while this weekend. I’m planning on grabbing the latest SVN of WordPress, installing it and placing up Cran-Berry. It’s a spring refresh, not a May one.

-John Havlik

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White Noise

What kind of professor assignees a homework problem on a topic that is out of the scope of the course and it’s prerequisites? This so happens to be the last part of the first question on an assignment that is supposed to take over 12 hours to complete. We get a nice “Warning! mathematical content”, in an Mythbusters fashion. One could not help but to write “No shit” next to it. Oh, and this is spring break, yeah I’m spending it doing homework.

As a side note, to anyone who actually thought WordPress 2.5 would be released on time on the 10th was a little shallow. Even worse where those who thought it would get released on the 17th, a week later. Looking at the Trac roadmap, 2.5 still has 250 bugs today that are unresolved (well some of them have patches awaiting approval). This morning it was over 300, on Monday 1 in 3 tickets for 2.5 were still open. Things are progressing, though a good number of tickets were moved to 2.6 as there was no patch or developer assigned to them.

For 2.5 this blog will be changing over to the Cran-Berry theme, which I’ll continue to tweak and release in April for mass consumption. Cran-Berry is based off of the the now stable Blu-Berry CSS and PHP core. Earlier this week I tweaked the CSS a little bit and fixed a problem with the comments. Major work on cleaning up the code has resolved many of the issues experienced in Blu-Berry. Like the name suggests, Cran-Berry is a WordPress theme with a red color scheme. As for Breadcrumb NavXT 2.1, it will be released sometime near the 21st of March.

-John Havlik

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Week One Done

Spring semester, week #1, is complete. My schedule this semester is much better than the previous semester’s. No more late afternoon classes, no more huge blocks of time between classes. This semester we play with the idiotic PIC microcontroller specifically due to it’s illogical command set, slip ups in its documentation, and other general oddities in it. That’s correct, we’re studying a microcontroller architecture that even the professor does not and would not use.

An interesting general conclusion about the different departments/colleges at the U is that the CLA and biology departments tend to use more Macs, while IT likes either dells running Ubuntu, XP 64bit or Sun workstations running Ubuntu or Solaris. Having a professor that out right makes fun of Windows is a new experience, and actively trying to promote Linux is definitely new. Since his laptop’s gnome environment distinctly lacked distribution branding (as seen on Ubuntu and others), I’m sure he’s probably a Slackware user (which is cool since Ubuntu is overrated and Slackware originated in Minnesota). Though, I must say, I don’t approve of his favorite text editor (vi) and no I don’t even use its main competitor (EMACS), I’m a Gentoo user (hence I use nano).

Just a side note, I did a minor update to Breadcrumb NavXT. It should provide with some debugging information in know problem areas, and the “Bad user, no cookie for you” error message was replaced with something a bit more descriptive. Hopefully, the cause of the break in the WordPress API which causes the message to show up can be identified. Currently, it seems that running PHP in safemode can cause the problem to arise. More on that later.

-John Havlik

[end of transmission, stay tuned]